Saint Mary’s launches new website for the College
Haleigh Ehmsen | Sunday, December 6, 2015
Saint Mary’s launched its new website last Wednesday, with the purpose of telling the Saint Mary’s story with a new look and feel, according to vice president for College relations Shari Rodriguez.
Last spring, the College conducted research on prospective students and parents, current students and faculty and staff, Rodriguez said. The research was focused on opinions about Saint Mary’s, the strengths of the College and how the College compares with other higher education institutions.
“Through that research we gained a cleared understanding of the types of things prospective parents and prospective students want, and that is a little different than what current students and faculty and staff care about,” Rodriguez said.
The research helped solidify the decision to update the website with new images, branding and messaging, she said, as well as admissions materials and banners around campus.
“Our old website was trying to serve everybody, and because these audiences have such different needs, it was best to restructure the website to hone in on what each audience cares about,” Rodriguez said.
“The website was developed based on what prospective students and parents told us about how their make decisions [about college] and what they want to know quickly.”
For this reason, the variety of majors and departments are prominently displayed on the updated website, and it is mobile-friendly as well, Rodriguez said.
“International students, transfer students or first-year student have tabs on the lower half of the home page, you want to be able to [click] on the information you care about quickly,” she said.
It is also important for prospective parents and students to understand what someone does with particular majors and see what the outcomes are for Saint Mary’s students, she said.
“People want to hear stories,” Rodriguez said.
The new website will be infused with students and alumnae stories because, Rodriguez said, stories help prospective students see themselves at Saint Mary’s through others’ experiences and where education at the College can take them.
Chief information officer Michael Boehm said the new portal my.saintmarys.edu is also part of the website upgrade released last Wednesday. Having the Saint Mary’s portal for current students, faculty and staff helps to target information to the specific audiences, he said, and students, faculty and staff are given targeted access for all applications they use on a daily basis.
The portal also helps the College to be transparent and present information that’s available but not often easily found, such as College policies on campus safety and emergency information, Boehm said. The portal will continue to be a work in progress, he said.
“The creation of the portal is very much a user-driven process,” he said. “We didn’t want to make assumptions that these are the features our users will want so the multiple phases will allow users to provide input and make recommendations.”
On the portal, there is a “Buy, Sell, Trade” forum in which students, faculty and staff can sell event tickets, sell books or share rides, Boehm said.
“It’s an opportunity for the College to have a marketplace,” he said.
Before this forum, Rodriguez said there wasn’t an efficient way of communicating items for sale or ride-sharing.
The forum was one of the things that came out of the focus groups, Boehm said, and the community as a whole thought it would be of value. In January, Boehm said, there will be a variety of different forums for users to provide feedback on the portal.
Rodriguez said she and others on the website project will be tracking how people use the site to make sure the update is as effective as it can be.
“We will be using Google Analytics to watch how people navigate through the site and making changes accordingly,” she said. “We want the website to be user-friendly and help people find information they want in most efficient manner.”